There’s nothing like a great visit to a tried-and-true favorite cider mill to make the most out of fall in Michigan. Lucky for us, cider mills are aplenty in the metro Detroit area, many of which have remained family-owned and operated for generations, staying true to decades-old recipes and traditions that make them that much more charming.
As we now navigate COVID-19, many cider mills are pivoting their business practices and ordering structures to create safe, health-conscious environments while continuing to provide the products and atmospheres they pride themselves on most. This fall, visit these 5 local cider mills that we’ve ranked as some of the best (and safest) in the area, and learn more about what they’re doing to implement new COVID-19 measures.
Franklin Cider Mill
Nestled in the heart of Bloomfield Hills on a quiet road, Franklin Cider Mill has been serving up piping hot donuts for decades that follow a 100-year-old German recipe consisting of cinnamon and spice batter. Opened in the 1830s, the historic mill has stayed largely unchanged in its appearance and has drawn generations of Michiganders who continue to come back for Franklin’s family-first atmosphere. “The best tradition is families sitting by the water wheel and sitting by the river feeding the ducks,” Laura Peltz, co-owner of the mill, says.
Families are also drawn to the vendors who serve up everything from hot dogs, to homemade jams and salsas, to bags of crisp apples straight from the farms. Donuts are made fresh daily before 8 a.m. and cider comes in many forms including hot cider and cider slushies. This year, Franklin has moved all operations outdoors and is offering online ordering and curbside pickup, along with delivery via GrubHub.
Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill
Since 1873 (and one rebuild following a fire), Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill has been known for their pillow-soft cinnamon sugar donuts and equally sweet apple cider. Also available in a plain spiced variety for those who don’t prefer the sugary alternative, this Northville Cider Mill is hailed for having some of the most delicious donuts in the area.
In recent times, they’ve pivoted their product offerings to also include a wide variety of honey and honey sticks, sweet and savory donut chips, bourbon maple syrup and caramel apples in every flavor imaginable. In better times, visitors are able to enjoy the fresh air and sitting area by the creek, but Parmenter’s has now developed one of the most creative and convenient operational structures to manage COVID-19, which consists of drive-thru only with optional order-ahead available online. The process is seamless, moves quickly and is perfect for those who crave hot donuts and cider on the fly.
Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill
It’s easy to spend a whole day at Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill, an Oakland County classic located in the outskirts of town. There’s berry picking, apple picking and pumpkin picking, along with hayrides and a farm that houses a group of smiling goats. A selection of unique donut flavors also make this a go-to for those looking to venture beyond traditional cinnamon sugar or spiced donuts (seasonal varieties can include pumpkin-glazed and pumpkin sprinkles, but aren’t available this fall due to COVID).
Here you’ll find live music, a Michigan-made popcorn vendor and plenty of space to social distance and relax with a cup of apple cider. This year Erwin’s has installed a variety of dividers, including wooden dividers on its wagons and plexi-glass dividers at purchasing windows to help keep employees and visitors safe, while enforcing strict social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
Yates Cider Mill
It’s next to impossible to talk about metro Detroit cider mills without bringing Yates Cider Mill into the conversation. This Rochester Hills-based long-standing favorite has drawn visitors from all corners of Michigan (and beyond) who are more than willing to travel to scoop up a warm bag of Yates’ acclaimed donuts and cider, which also comes in hot and slushie form. With its mill located on the banks of the Clinton River, the structure - founded in 1863 - continues to operate as one of the most picturesque and beloved in metro Detroit.
Come for the sweet treats, stay for the enjoyable scenery and the walks along the trails that wind through the woods behind the mill. In a COVID-19 safety-first approach, Yates has implemented handwashing stations, increased spacing between registers, employee screening and social distancing guidelines. They’ve also launched an online ordering system for large orders and depending on demand can open an outdoor window at their ice cream stand for people who are not comfortable ordering inside.
Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill
It can take several visits to Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill and the greater Blake’s complex to experience everything this sprawling attraction has to offer. Found in the countryside of metro Detroit, this family-owned and -operated business since 1946 has everything from an extensive U-pick schedule that rotates with seasons, to a lavender market, to even a haunted house. Guests can sip homemade hard cider, wine, beer and traditional apple cider while trying one of Blake’s many seasonal donut varieties, the likes of which include blueberry and peach.
For the 2020 season, “Blake’s is committed to offering a family-oriented experience,” Andrew Blake, president of Blake’s Family of Companies, says. “To ensure a safe environment for all to enjoy, we will be closely monitoring capacity at all times, thoroughly sanitizing all common areas, opening additional open-air venues and, of course, featuring acres of outdoor space for guests to enjoy.” Blake’s regularly updates its Facebook page with calendars that show visitors which days to expect busier and lighter crowds to help them plan ahead.